The Music of Erich Zann

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"The Music of Erich Zann"
AuthorH. P. Lovecraft
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Horror
PublisherThe National Amateur
Media typeMagazine
Publication dateMarch 1922

"The Music of Erich Zann" is a horror short story by American author H. P. Lovecraft. Written in December 1921, it was first published in National Amateur, March 1922.[1]

Plot[edit]

A university student is forced, by his lack of funds, to take the only lodging he can afford. In a strange part of the city he had never seen before, on a street named "Rue d'Auseil", he finds an apartment in an almost empty building. One of the few other tenants is an old German man named Erich Zann. The old man is mute and plays the viol[a] with a local theater orchestra. He lives on the top floor and when alone at night, plays strange melodies never heard before. Out of fascination, the student invites himself to hear Zann play at his room, despite the latter's explicit insatisfaction. While watching the first night, the student notices and is attracted out of curiosity to the window of the room, which, according to the landlord, is the only window that can oversee the wall at the end of the mysterious street. Zann seems disturbed to discover that the student is able to hear his melody from his room and then asks the student in a friendly manner to be moved to a lower floor where he won't hear Zann's music, only to return the next day to his antisocial behaviour once the student has already moved.

Eventually, as Zann isolates himself more and more, the student decides to sneak behind his door in order to be able to listen to the strange melodies. One night, the student hears a commotion and Zann's scream inside the room, and starts knocking on the door. Zann lets him in and asks him to wait while he writes a manuscript detailing his whole ordeal. More than an hour into the writing, Zann is startled by a distant sound in the form of a low note, interrupts the manuscript and starts playing his viol with a crescent fear. A gust of wind shatters the window, and an unnatural wind sweeps through the room, carrying away Zann's manuscripts, which the student had not yet read, out the window, despite the man's attempts at catching them. While next to the window, the student recalls his curiosity and looks outside, but instead of seeing the city lights, he only sees an infinite dark abyss, as if the window was a portal to another dimension. It is then that the student learn of Zann's secret, that the old man has discovered melodies and rhythms of sound of an almost otherworldly nature. Zann plays these sounds to keep back unknown and unseen creatures from his window.

Fleeing the house after he finds Zann seemingly dead despite his body still playing his instrument, the student escapes not just the house but the neighborhood entirely. Years later, he writes down his accounts, and tells that he has never been able to find Rue d'Auseil again, as it does not appear on any maps, and no one else seems to ever have heard of it.

Setting[edit]

An artist's depiction of Zann's room

The setting of the story is presumably Paris, though the city is never named. Auseil is not a true French word, but it has been suggested that Lovecraft derived it from the phrase au seuil, meaning at the threshold.[3] Auseil is read like oseille, meaning sorrel or, colloquially, money.

Reactions[edit]

Lovecraft considered "The Music of Erich Zann" one of his best stories, in part because it avoided the overexplicitness that he saw as a major flaw in some of his other work. An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia notes that it "might, however, be said that HPL erred on the side of underexplicitness in the very nebulous horror to be seen through Zann's garret window."[2]

The story was frequently anthologized even during Lovecraft's lifetime, including in Dashiell Hammett's 1931 collection Creeps by Night.[3] Ramsey Campbell has stated that "The Music of Erich Zann" was "the single Lovecraft story that the late Robert Aickman liked".[4] Campbell himself used only "The Music of Erich Zann" when creating the Folio Book of Horror Stories.[5]

Influence[edit]

Literature[edit]

Film[edit]

  • A short film adaptation was directed by John Strysik in 1980.
  • A South Korean short film adaptation (retitled The Music of Jo Hyeja) was directed by Jihyun Park in 2012.
  • Another short film adaptation was directed by Reuben Baron in 2016.
  • Leigh Blackmore scripted a short film version in 1975, however the script was never shot.

Music[edit]

  • American composer Raymond Wilding-White created a piece in 1980 by the same title for violin and electronics, with Eugene Gratovich of DePaul University in the role of the university student.
  • Univers Zéro's album Ceux du dehors (1981) includes a track titled "La musique d'Erich Zann". According to drummer and bandleader Daniel Denis, all members read the short story in the studio and promptly improvised the piece.[6]
  • German technical thrash metal band Mekong Delta titled their 1988 second album The Music of Erich Zann after the story.
  • British Anarcho-punk band Rudimentary Peni featured a depiction of Eric Zann on the original cover of their 1988 album Cacophony.
  • Hungarian Metal band Without Face has a song called "The Violin of Erich Zann" on the 2002 album Astronomicon.
  • German ambient band Forma Tadre titled their 2008 album The Music of Erich Zann.
  • Greek death metal band Septic Flesh references the story in the song "Lovecraft's Death" on their 2008 album Communion.
  • American thrash metal band Revocation song "Madness Opus" off their 2014 album Deathless is based on off The Music of Erich Zann.
  • Eric Zann is a pseudonym of Jim Jupp, who has released an album on the Ghost Box Music record label.
  • French composer Claude Ballif wrote stage music of the same title.
  • The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets' 2017 album The Dukes of Alhazred included a track titled Erich Zann.
  • I Monster's 2017 album A Dollop of HP illustrated four of Lovecraft's short stories including The Music of Erich Zann, narrated by David Yates.
  • British band Abigail's Party wrote a song of the same title.
  • Singer/songwriter Jon Baade wrote a song titled "The Music Erich Zann" as a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft's story. It was recorded on Seelie Court's album, Rising in the North (2002) and on the Water Street Bridge album, Filker's Handbook (2018.)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ * Although Zann's instrument is often depicted as a violin (see "Influence" below), Lovecraft's intended use of this term appears to be to refer to a violoncello: in a letter to Elizabeth Toldridge (October 31, 1931?) he describes Zann as a "'cellist".[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Straub, Peter (2005). Lovecraft: Tales. The Library of America. p. 823. ISBN 1-931082-72-3.
  2. ^ a b Joshi and Schultz, p. 177.
  3. ^ a b Joshi and Schultz, p. 178.
  4. ^ Ramsey Campbell, "Chasing the Unknown", in Cold Print. Headline, 1993, ISBN 0-7472-4059-0, (p.12).
  5. ^ https://www.foliosociety.com/uk/the-folio-anthology-of-horror-stories.html
  6. ^ Colli, Beppi (August 9, 2005). "Interview: Daniel Denis (Univers Zero)". Clouds and Clocks. Retrieved February 14, 2016.

Sources[edit]

  • Lovecraft, Howard P. (1984) [1925]. "The Music of Erich Zann". In S. T. Joshi (ed.) (ed.). The Dunwich Horror and Others (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-037-8.CS1 maint: Extra text: editors list (link) Definitive version.
  • Harksen, Henrik. Metaphysics in "The Music of Erich Zann" . Denmark: H. Harksen Productions, 2003 for the Esoteric Order of Dagon Amateur Press Association Mailing No 123 (July 2003).
  • S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia

External links[edit]